Friday, September 30, 2011

Andy Rooney, Out Of Context

Andy Rooney is a near-legend. His 33 years on '60 Minutes' is coming to an end this weekend, and his career as a journalist and television writer stretches back to his time writing for Stars & Stripes during World War II.

And yet, like so many of us, Rooney can be made to look like a lunatic simply by editing together random moments from his commentaries over the years. Fun fact: he really DID make his own desk.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Notice!



Rather than pad out my post totals simply by linking to each of these in separate blogs, I figured it would save time to just put you all 'on notice' about these links in one fell swoop. Look at this efficiency!

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Did you enjoy that scene in Bridesmaids when Kristen Wiig argues with that snotty teenager at the jewelry store? If so, well, here's a full 10 minutes of it. "Two years, it was fun, and look at me now." As much as I'm over Wiig as a Saturday Night Live cast member, I find her weirdly entertaining as anything aside from an overdone SNL character. Like, 10 minutes of juvenile insults? Sold. Two minutes as that hammy Broadway star in the 'Secret Word' sketch? I want to shoot out my TV like Elvis.



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The 100 most beautiful words in the English language. I call horseshit on this list due to the omission of….well, "horseshit." What a beautiful, rich sound. The two competing S-sounds in the middle of the word create a lovely gushing effect. 'Horseshit' could've easily taken the place of 'tintinnabulation' or something. Ugh, what a dreadful, tinny word!

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Keeping with the top 100 idea, here's a montage of 100 years of East London fashions. This is not to be confused with 29 years of West London fashions, which is just a video of me wearing every t-shirt I've ever worn in my life, from No Fear to my homemade green-and-black question marks Riddler shirt.

Really, the London thing has nothing to do with it, since it's basically just a montage of how fashion has evolved through the last century. It's a clever idea for a video, certainly impressive from a costuming and technical standpoint, and it makes me kind of wish I'd been alive in the 1920's. Just as long as I could time-travel out before the whole Depression thing. Would've gotten depressing.



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Brilliantly smart-ass responses to completely well-meaning signs. This page is the gift that keeps on giving. I only just realized, surfing to it again for this post, that it's continually updating, so you can keep going back and checking out even more funny signs. It's also possible that the hanging 'do not walk' man is a Banksy.

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Every so often you see a website go from zero to 60 seemingly overnight. Letters Of Note has been operating for over two years now in relative anonymity, yet in the last month suddenly it's exploded. I'm seeing links to a 'Letter Of Note' on a near-daily basis on any number of other sites.

The premise is simple: Letters Of Note reprints and scans letters, postcards, and other sorts of correspondence from various famous and notable people on a variety of subjects. It has everything from Matt Stone writing the MPAA about some changes to the South Park movie to David Bowie's hilariously cheerful response to his first piece of American fan mail to Richard Nixon's backup speech in case the Apollo 11 mission went awry, reprinted below. There is no shortage of fascinating material on this website. It might even have a copy of my letter to Santa Claus in 1986 where I asked for Apple stock. (Didn't get it…thanks for NOTHING, Santa.)



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Speaking of David Bowie, here's a clip of a music video by Seona Dancing, an early 1980's synth/pop band from England. Needless to say, these guys are heavily, heavily influenced by Bowie, especially that lead singer, who's doing everything possible to ape Bowie's look. Man, what a clown. I wonder what ever happened to that guy….

….oh, wait, it's RICKY GERVAIS. I shit you not. Gervais, to his credit, has poked fun at his old pop star past and frankly, it benefits him that this video still exists, since he might see it as proof of the non-existence of God.



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Archie, Out Of Context. Yep.

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As a huge Arrested Development fan (it's the only TV series I own on DVD), I can't help but enjoy this recreation of the show in Lego. Also, as a huge Arrested Development fan, I can't help but notice that this link doesn't include any mention of the AD movie, so I'm unsatisfied! Wait'll I register my displeasure on an internet message board, that'll sure show Ron Howard!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ten Commandments Scorecard



So I was sitting around today and wondered, am I going to hell? This thought may or may not have occurred after I'd just watched an episode of Jersey Shore, but still, it's a pressing theological question that obviously needs answering if I'm going to get on the with the rest of my life. After all, if I'm already a lost cause, I might as well just start sinning it up like the DJ at a Reno strip club. (Fun fact: 'DJ at a Reno strip club' was voted seediest job in America by Newsweek Magazine. This poll, admittedly, was bullshit, since I can't believe that 'janitor at a porn theatre' could've possibly lost. Damned faulty Newsweek voting methodology.)

I decided to judge my piety based on that wonderful ancient scorecard known as the Ten Commandments. I'm very familiar with the rules, having watched 'The Ten Commandments' over four straight weeks of Sunday school back in my childhood. It occurs to me now that my Sunday school teacher might've just been really lazy, which may be a sin, but it technically doesn't break a commandment. Maybe the teacher was trying to teach us about grey areas.

Anyway, let's see how my soul is doing, from the least-followed to most-followed commandments….

10. Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain
Well, this one is off the books completely. I bust out some blasphemous curse like 'God!', 'Goddamn!', 'Jesus Christ!', 'Hay-Zeus Christo!',' 'Sweet Tap-Dancing Christ!' or something of that ilk at least once per hour, every single waking hour of the day. And, honestly, probably even during sleep, if I should happen to wake up in the middle of the night, realize it's 5 AM or something and mutter 'goddammit' before passing back out.

My relatively religious friend Joanne, interestingly, sticks to this one pretty closely. She'll always substitute 'gosh-darns' whenever necessary and even corrects me when I say 'goddamn,' though the catch is that she'll drop one of the major curses at the drop of a hat. Like, she'll describe someone as a "gosh-darn motherfucking piece of shit." I personally feel like she's exploiting a loophole here, but then again, I'm no theologian.


9. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's"
I copied this one directly from that invaluable religious text known as Wikipedia so I could get the exact wording, because it's hilarious. First of all, was God trying to pad out a word count in the Bible? Why not just write, "thou shalt not covet any thing that is thy neighbour's"? You don't need to cite six specific examples of things not to covet if you're just going to wrap it up with "oh, yeah, just to stay safe, don't covet anything at all." That last part really screws me for this commandment. I mean, I can safely say that I've never walked down my street and thought "I sure do wish I had an ox that could plow a field as half as well as Bill's ox," but when you expand the commandment to literally everything Bill has, well, I'm bound to slip up at one point or another. Bill has a 46-inch flatscreen? Yep, that counts as coveting, so I'm going to hell.

It's also great that in the list of specific things, the neighbour's wife is SECOND. Second! On the same list of commandments that has its own anti-adultery rule! Was "thou shalt not be a squatter" the eleventh commandment but cut during the final edit?


8. Remember The Sabbath Day And Keep It Holy
There's more to this one that specifies that not only do YOU have to not do anything on Sundays, but also you're responsible for making sure that everyone in your family, plus your servants, plus your cattle (again with the damn oxen) and "thy stranger that is within thy gates" doesn't do anything either. This one has way too many trapdoors. What if I have some soulless enemy who sneaks into my house on a Sunday and starts, I dunno, mopping my kitchen floor? Would I get condemned just because this guy is a jerk? I'd come downstairs, react with shock, and then he'd just be laughing and saying, "When you get to hell, tell 'em Itchy sent you!"

Whatever, it's a moot point since I've worked plenty of Sunday shifts at various jobs over the years. Hellbound! And I reckon I may have written about this before, but isn't "I'll see you in hell" just a really funny insult? It's just so extreme ("We are BOTH going to rot in agony for all eternity, but you'll be there thanks to ME!") that it's hilarious.


7. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbour
Depending on who you talk to, this commandment either means "do not give false testimony under oath," like in a court of law, or "do not lie about other people" in general. If it's the first, then I'm totally in the clear, since I've never testified in a trial. I've only ever been called for jury duty once but didn't get picked since I was a student at the time. (It was a murder case, too. That might've been awesome!)

If the second interpretation fits, however, then oh man, my goose is cooked. I am secretly one of the biggest gossips you'll ever meet, though with the caveat that I don't mention specific names. Like, I'll tell a story about a friend doing some funny and/or bizarre thing but won't actually say who it is. And when I do this, I don't describe them in a way that makes it obvious who the person is, like Larry David's therapist. So really, I go out of my way to protect my friends' confidence….uh, while also relating some personal detail about their lives. Hmm. There isn't a way of sugarcoating this, is there? Let's hope God meant the first interpretation.


6. Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image...
5. Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

I'm grouping these two together since I feel like both are affected by the fact that I'm not actually religious. I'm, at best, an agnostic, so since I technically don't believe in any specific god, I might be technically following these. Like, I'm not putting any gods before the Christian God since I've got pretty much all the deities on the same level, right next to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Also, I'm not worshipping any false idols since, if I believe the concept of a conscious supreme being is inherently faulty, no idol can be 'false.' Man, I should've gone to law school! (Though, that would've probably led to me breaking everything on this list.) You'd think being agnostic would be an auto-fail for the Commandments themselves, but what the heck, I'll just give myself an NA for these two.


4. Thou Shalt Not Steal
Okay, now we get into the positive ones. Did I once own a Napster account? Yes. Did I perhaps snatch an extra cookie off the tray during a potluck? Sure. But these are petty, petty thefts, and since I'm certainly not stealing anything major, I'd give myself a positive on this one. Sure, the commandment isn't "Thou Shalt Not Steal Anything Major," but c'mon, unless God is actually Lars Ullrich, he's not going to get on my case for downloading an MP3 file of "Drop Dead Gorgeous" by Republica in 2001, will he?


3. Thou Shalt Not Kill
Don't freak out that this isn't #1, I'm not Dexter or anything. But I have indeed killed in my life….ants, flies, moths, all sorts of lower creatures. See, this is why I'm fine on that 'thou shalt not steal' commandment, since even though this one technically says you can't kill anything at all, there's surely some allowance if you have a mosquito on your arm. Heck, throughout the rest of the Bible, there's no shortage of cattle or horses or whatnot being slaughtered. A surprising amount of the Good Book is really about farm maintenance. Are we sure Moses descended from Mount Sinai on foot, or did he ride down on a John Deere tractor?


2. Honour Thy Father And Thy Mother
My parents are awesome! I'll happily honour them at any point. I guess I've been a disobedient son at few times in my life, but certainly nothing major. The closest I came to a rebellious phase was when I started staying up late on Saturdays to watch sketch comedy shows on the Drambuie Showcase Revue. Wow, was I ever a nerdy kid. Anyway, I've argued with my folks way fewer times than I've slaughtered insects, so this one gets the runner-up position.


1. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
And here we go. Never been married myself so I'm not cheating on anyone, and I've never slept with a married woman, so I'm not the Sloan-esque other man. So if you've keeping track, this is ONE out of ten commandments where I'm 100 percent in the clear, three others where I'm in the 98-99th percentile in the clear, three others that are very questionable, and three that I break on a regular basis.

Overall, it's not the best batting average, but to this I argue, are these commandments in any particular order? Like, was Moses going from top rule to least-important rule, or what? Since frankly, if the worst I'm doing is dropping a few g-d bombs, covering a game on a Sunday afternoon or thinking my neighbour has a sweet car, that doesn't sound all that bad to me. Would you rather hang out with a guy who was breaking these commandments, or with a guy who was sass-mouthing my mom, banging your wife and pushing you in the path of a moving bus? That's just flat-out anti-social.

In conclusion, I'll see you all in hell……from heaven.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Contagion



Contagion is trying hard to be THE virus pandemic movie, much in the same way that Jurassic Park was THE dinosaur movie, or Jaws was THE shark movie, or Powder was THE moody albino with electromagnetic powers movie. And, while Contagion hasn't quite caught on to become a pop culture phenomenon like those other three films (uh, two out of three films), its high profile and general quality should be enough to at least give it the duke over 'Outbreak.' Tough break, Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and various apes.

I'm a sucker for ensemble films that present a world, give you the 'rules' of the world and then explore various scenarios that would naturally take place within this new reality. In Contagion's case, a deadly airborne virus is killing millions worldwide and causing a global panic. There are a lot of ways you can go with this story, but Contagion basically touches on all of them, showing several different vignettes featuring different characters. Not all of the vignettes are knockouts; Marion Cotillard's storyline wasn't that impressive, but maybe I just expected more from it since Cotillard is my favourite actress. That said, the sheer scope of the movie more than makes up for any shortcomings in respective parts.

It's stunning that Steven Soderbergh directed the Ocean's 11 trilogy yet this film, by far, is his most star-studded cast. Here's the list of Oscar nominees alone in Contagion: Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Elliott Gould, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, John Hawkes and Matt Damon. Then you have beloved TV stars like Bryan Cranston*, Enrico Colantoni and Demetri Martin, and finally, there's Jennifer Ehle who basically steals the whole movie. Ehle is on some goofy-ass CBS drama this year and she looks a LOT like Meryl Streep, so maybe this qualifies her for both categories?

* = Not that Cranston isn't a great actor and can make me believe in him playing another character, but I've gotten so used to him on 'Breaking Bad' that it's now suddenly a bit jarring to see him in roles other than Walter White. Then again, it's an easier transition because in non-Walt roles, Cranston has hair and no goatee.

As you'd expect from this crew, there isn't a bad performance in the bunch. Law stands out just because you're never quite sure where his character his going until it suddenly hits you in the face. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers here.) That said, I feel like the star is the premise and Soderbergh's direction. Contagion would have been just as effective, if not even more effective, had the cast been full of no-names. Of course, then Soderbergh probably doesn't get the budget necessary for a picture of this scope, but still.

A word about the last scene. I don't think it ruins too much to reveal that the final scene in the movie shows how the virus got into the human population, though I won't go into detail because hmm, spoilers. It's par for the course in such an unsettling film that this deadly virus that wipes out millions and causes one of the great panics in (this universe's) history is first transmitted in such a banal way. I'd be interested to know if the ending was originally the actual ending, or if it was an editing/directorial decision to slot the scene from the beginning of the movie to the end, since it really packs a creepy wallop as you're leaving the theatre. Also, the ending is yet another reason why I don't take many pictures on my camera phone. I'm just trying to prevent a worldwide catastrophe so that's why I don't have many pictures of my new apartment, MOM.

Final comic note: virus movies are great for smart-ass comments in theatres. As folks were filing out of Contagion, someone coughed, which lead to one clever wit yelling "Oh no, we're all gonna die!" Got a nice laugh. It puts me in mind of the greatest audience comment I've ever experienced. During 'I Am Legend,' they have that scene of Emma Thompson talking about how she's engineering a strain of the measles meant to fight cancer, followed by an immediate cut to a desolate Manhattan. As if on cue, the guy in front of us in the theatre yelled "Uh oh, they couldn't cure the measles!" Doesn't sound great on paper, but the timing was perfect and it just cracked the entire audience up. Probably the highlight of that movie aside from the scene where Will Smith strangles his dog, then asks "How come he don't want me, man?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

UFC 135 Predictions



* Nate Diaz over Takanori Gomi, submission, R2
The book on Gomi is pretty easy: avoid his stand-up game by taking him down and submitting him or outwrestling him for a TKO. Under normal circumstances I'd think that Nate might be stupid enough to actually stand with Gomi, but Nate's lost two in a row and presumably he doesn't want to get cut from the UFC. (Then again, who knows how these Diaz brothers operate.) Fun fact: Nick Diaz famously upset Gomi in PRIDE but the result was turned into a no-contest after Nick tested positive for marijuana afterwards. Oh, those Diaz kids. What scamps! Nick Diaz might be the real-life version of the guy in Pearl Jam's song "Off He Goes."

* Travis Browne over Rob Broughton, KO, R2
This could and should be a slugfest between big ol' heavyweights. It isn't quite my usual "pick against British fighters since British fighters generally suck" rule since Broughton brings some decent wrestling and submissions to the table rather than just going in there and swinging his arms like Lisa Simpson. But, while I wouldn't put a ton of emphasis on Browne's unbeaten record, he's beaten a higher caliber of opponents than Broughton. A win here makes Browne 3-0-1 in the UFC and probably on the verge of a contenders' bout in the thin heavyweight division --- pretty impressive for a guy who we still don't know is actually a good fighter.

* Ben Rothwell over Mark Hunt, submission, R1
I can't believe Mark Hunt actually won a fight. Chris Tuchscherer (a.k.a. 'The Guy Who Hunt Knocked Out At UFC 127'), you should be ashamed of yourself, and you were deservedly cut. Now, SURELY Ben Rothwell, since you're not a total tomato can, you can put this guy into retirement, right? Hunt's career MMA record is 6-7, for god's sakes. Rothwell is no great shakes as a fighter but even he should be above Hunt's stature at this point in his career.

* Josh Koscheck over Matt Hughes, submission, R2
The fight was originally supposed to be Hughes vs. Diego Sanchez, but once Sanchez got hurt, Koscheck stepped up for his big return to the cage. When last we saw Kos, Georges St. Pierre was jabbing him again and again and again and again and again and again and again until Koscheck's face began to resemble a Halloween mask. It stands to reason that he could be a bit gun-shy in his first match back, which is why I'm predicting a sub win over Hughes. Basically, this one is "Koscheck by however he wants," since he is a big step beyond what Hughes is capable of beating at this point in his career. Hughes' only chance is if Koscheck is REALLY gun-shy and Hughes suddenly finds himself with an advantage in striking. Chalk this one up for a comeback win for Koscheck and then Hughes can continue taking semi-ceremonial fights in the twilight of his career. I'd still like to see him face Sanchez, that would be an interesting matchup.

* Jon Jones over Rampage Jackson, decision
As a johnny-come-lately MMA fan who got into the UFC when everyone else did (2006-07), I've never seen Rampage Jackson in trouble. I've seen him get hit hard a few times and I've seen him get taken down to the mat, but still, I can't recall a UFC Jackson fight where I've actually thought he was going down. Now, Rampage has certainly lost before and gotten his ass kicked before, perhaps most notably three beatdowns from Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua in PRIDE, but to my eyes, the idea of Rampage being totally worked over is almost inconceivable. He's 10-2 in his last 12 fights and those two losses were close decisions to Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin.

Now, here comes Jon Jones, the guy who's been destroying everyone in his path. We sort of have an unstoppable force vs. immovable object situation here except there are hints that neither fighter quite lives up to that billing. While I'm *almost* ready to buy into the Bones Jones hype, I'd argue that he needs a decisive win over Jackson to cement him as the next big thing. Whipping Shogun was impressive, but that was a Rua who was coming off a year layoff and major knee surgery. Besides the Shogun result, Jones' best win is over Vladimir Matyushenko, who's a tough guy but certainly not in the upper tier of light-heavyweights. (Though Jones' destruction of him was admittedly very impressive.) Rampage, while he's been winning, hasn't looked great in recent wins over Lyoto Machida, Matt Hamill, Keith Jardine, and that Machida fight could've easily gone the other way.

Is Rampage really over the hill and he just hasn't fought anyone explosive enough to take advantage of this yet? Or, will Jones be swallowed by the hype of his first LHW title defence and start to panic (or tire in the later rounds) if Rampage isn't fazed by his striking? My pick is Jones simply because he might just be that good and Rampage's recent performances have left me something to be desired….but it wouldn't shock me whatsoever if Rampage lands a big shot and Jones crumbles, having never been tested like this before. Terrific matchup and a really hard-to-pick main event.

Undercard….
* Tim Boetsch over Nick Ring, decision
* Tony Ferguson over Aaron Riley, TKO, R3
* Junior Assuncao over Eddie Yagin, submission, R1
* Takeya Mizugaki over Cole Escovedo, decision
* James Te-Huna over Ricardo Romero, TKO, R2

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Abandoned List Posts (Survivor, Hockey)

So as I'm still picking up the pieces from my computer crash last month, a couple of list posts were aborted in the process. I had very rough copies of these posts saved via e-mails to myself, so you're basically just getting the nuts and bolts. The first is the second part of my 'Best Survivors Ever' series and I don't think anyone wants to read "another several thousand words on the topic. Hilariously, the only entry I wrote out in full was about Russell Hantz, who wasn't even actually on the list. Also, with the new Survivor season starting tonight, it's very possible that this list could immediately become out of date. Sigh.

The other post idea was a random comparison of various star hockey players to various legendary rock bands that didn't quite come off, nor did I really put as much research or creativity into it as I should've. On the bright side, it also probably prevented me from making a tasteless wisecrack about Amy Winehouse and….uh, geez, there really have been a lot of tragic hockey player deaths this summer, haven't there? But I didn't actually make the joke, just DISCUSSED the joke, so it isn't tasteless! Loophole!

So basically, since both of these idea were half-assed, then combined, they make for one full ass of a post. Enjoy the….uh, ass?

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With the new Survivor season just days away, it's high time for the second instalment of my 'Best Survivors Ever' series. Don't worry, unlike the Winners Edition, this one is only very long instead of incredibly long. I was a bit surprised because, if you're trying to rank the 'best' out of people who didn't actually complete the primary objective of what they were attempting to do (win Survivor), you'd think I'd have a bit more to say. In several of these cases, however, the players can be summed up as "Well, they knew what they were doing, and it didn't work out for them. Oh well."

As with the first list, I'm using these criteria….

* how this person performed in their respective season(s). While I'm selecting several players who finished anywhere from second place to not even making the merge, final standing has to count for something.

* how this person could perform if they were put into another Survivor season, or basically, ranking their skillset. This is a pretty subjective category since Survivor has changed quite a bit in its 22 (!) seasons, so what could win you the game in 2001 is a lot different than what could win you the game in 2011.

* for this particular list, I'm looking at WHY these people didn't win their season and if it was due to a correctible flaw.

And now, without further adieu, let's start with the guy who is quite notably not on the list, just because he's probably the most controversial omission.

X. Russell Hantz
He didn't crack the top 23. He wouldn't have cracked the top 53. "But Mark," you'll say if you're a Russell fan, "he finished second twice! And he was a power player in all three of his seasons! As someone who's watched the show since all the way back in 2009, Russell is clearly the greatest Survivor ever!"

You know those long-drive competitions they occasionally show on ESPN? These golfers spend all their time perfecting their swings so they can achieve maximum distance, so when they step out on the range, they can boom the ball a good 400 yards. While these big hitters are certainly impressive, however, there's a big difference between these guys and actual pro golfers. The main reason these guys are in made-for-TV long drive competitions and not playing on the PGA Tour is that their games simply aren't well-rounded enough to compete at the elite level. Sure, they can hit a golf ball 400 yards, but can they hit it straight? Or can they navigate a dogleg left? Or, most importantly, once the ball lands, can the big hitter manage to putt it into the hole?

Russell is, essentially, Survivor's answer to the long-drive golfer. He shows up on the island with a driver in his bag and nothing else. He has no finesse. If a situation calls for the game-playing equivalent of a delicate chip out of a sand trap, Russell just goes for the driver again.

What really makes Russell a bad player, however, is that he has no idea why he's a bad player. The fact that he voluntarily "took" the likes of Natalie, Parvati and Sandra to the final vote with him (they really took him, but play along) because they "didn't do anything" is a sign that Russell is just flat-out clueless about the all-important social aspect of Survivor. Even worse, he's dismissive of it, calling it a flaw in the game. The nerve of this guy. To return to my analogy, imagine if the winner of that ESPN long drive competition won a spot in the Masters. This golfer shows up at Augusta National and misses the cut by a mile since he can't chip, putt or play short irons. Then imagine this golfer complained to the media afterwards that, "Oh, putting is irrelevant. I can hit it farther than these guys, I should be the true Masters champion!" Nobody would take this argument seriously, so why are some people still convinced that Russell Hantz is God's gift to Survivor?


23. Jonathan Penner
22. Susie Smith
21. Gregg Carey
20. Holly Hoffman
19. Danielle DiLorenzo
18. Taj Johnson-George
17. Lex van den Berghe
16. Colby Donaldson
15. Greg Buis
14. Jerri Manthey
13. Ozzy Lusth
12. Jonny Fairplay
11. Matthew von Ertfelda
10. Amanda Kimmel
9. Peih-Gee Law
8. Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien
7. Tracy Hughes-Wolf
6. Ian Rosenberger
5. Stephen Fishbach
4. Yau Man Chan
3. Rafe Judkins
2. Rob Cesternino
1. Cirie Fields


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Wayne Gretzky = The Beatles (undisputed best)

Gordie Howe = The Rolling Stones (around for-friggin'-ever, though the obvious difference is that Howe was still great by the end)

Bobby Orr = Led Zeppelin (legendary, changed the game, gone too soon, I'm not crazy about this one since I think most would agree that Orr is the second-best player ever, whereas Led Zep isn't nearly a clear-cut #2. I mean, they have a case as #2 but it's certainly debatable.)

Steve Yzerman or Mark Messier = U2

Peter Forsberg = The White Stripes (band without a bassist, player without a foot)

Guy Lafleur = The Who (phenom in their prime, kind of a joke now)

Jacques Plante = Pink Floyd (great, but mostly remembered for accoutrements today rather than their play. Plante is best-known for the goalie mask, and Floyd is best-known for The Wall tour. This one needs some work.)

Mario Lemieux = Bruce Springsteen (another 'best ever' candidate sabotaged by outside factors, yes I may be comparing Hodgkin's disease to the Ghost Of Tom Joad album)

Ted Lindsay = Neil Young

Eric Lindros = Oasis ("next big thing" that didn't pan out)

Paul Kariya = Counting Crows (they're still around??)

Rocket Richard = Elvis Presley (legend from a bygone era, perhaps the first icon of hockey/rock music)

Maurice Richard = Little Richard (just too obvious a pun to ignore)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drive Recklessly

As a former professional driver (well, okay, a pizza delivery boy), I heartily endorse this initiative.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pearl Jam (and NEIL YOUNG!) At The ACC

You never have to worry about spoilers when you're writing about a Pearl Jam concert, since PJ are known for drastic setlist overhauls on a nightly basis. So if you're reading this and thinking "Aw man, they're playing 'Porch' on this tour?! That's awesome, but I would've gone nuts hearing that not knowing it was coming!", never fear. It's even money that PJ doesn't even play the song again for the rest of this tour….so, uh, I guess you're disappointed in another way.

Every Pearl Jam show is a singular entity unto itself. For instance, Sunday evening's concert in Toronto featured perhaps the best grand finales I've ever seen in all my years of attending rock shows. Pearl Jam ended things off with "Rockin' In The Free World" and just when you thought they were wrapping up the song, NEIL FUCKING YOUNG HIMSELF comes on stage to take over and blow everyone's mind with ten minutes of shredding guitar solos. The arena went ballistic. Now, in fairness, given the number of big stars in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, we had whispered before the concert about how cool it would be if Young, or Bono, or the Edge made guest appearances. Random hypotheticals are nothing compared to actually seeing a capital-L Legend like Young stroll onto the stage and wail like there was no tomorrow.

Even without Young's appearance, this was still a show to remember. It was my second Pearl Jam concert, having first seen the band in London in 2005 at the John Labatt Centre, and I was accompanied by my pals Eric (his first PJ show) and Trev (his third….we saw them together in London and Trevor ranks Pearl Jam's 2006 concert in Toronto as the finest of his life) this time around. If the stage was at 12 o'clock, our seats were roughly at 5 o'clock up in the upper bowl, so we had a pretty good view of things. The bad news was that we were interrupted literally a dozen times during the show by various pieces of human garbage in our row who kept getting up to a) get beer, b) use the bathroom and c) presumably buy a beer and then drink it while actually urinating, eliminating the middle man. Also of note were the guys behind us who kept yelling for the band to play 'Crazy Mary' after every song. It was irritating but, admittedly, it would've been pretty awesome had 'Crazy Mary' actually been played.

This mini-tour from the band is to celebrate its 20th anniversary and to promote the "Pearl Jam Twenty" documentary, directed by Cameron Crowe, premiering at TIFF this week. Pearl Jam setlists are pretty varied on any tour, but with no specific album to promote in this case, literally any song from the band's huge catalogue is fair game to be played during a concert. Indeed, Sunday's show saw almost every album represented (nothing from 'Riot Act' or 'Pearl Jam,' though songs from both records were played during PJ's show in Montreal a few days ago) plus a few random B-sides and covers. One of those covers (Mother Love Bone's "Crown Of Thorns") was one of the highlights of the show, to boot.

Did I have a criticism of the show? Nope! This one was pretty easy to write. What am I supposed to do, complain that possibly my favourite Pearl Jam song ("No Way") wasn't played, given the nature of the band's random setlists? Nope! If anything, I'm pleased that "Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me" didn't make an appearance. Don't click on the link, please, save yourself.

Great show, Pearl Jam. Great show. The setlist….

Long Road
Do The Evolution
Once
Got Some
Faithful
Nothing As it Seems
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Setting Forth
Not For You (snippet from 'Modern Girl' by Sleater-Kinney)
Given To Fly
Just Breathe
Off He Goes
Daughter (snippet from "It's Ok" by Dead Moon)
Grievance
Down
Unthought Known
The Fixer
Porch
***********first encore***********
Nothingman
Better Man
Leatherman
Black
Rearviewmirror
***********second encore*********
Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns (Mother Love Bone cover)
Alive
Rockin' In The Free World (w/Neil Young)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

NFL Preview & Predictions



Thank god that lockout is over, eh? Let the title defence begin!

AFC West: San Diego, Kansas City, Denver, Oakland
The lockout and subsequent lack of regular offseason training camps will make this season even harder to predict than most. It's possible we could see a maelstrom of injuries since players haven't been properly worked into shape….or, we could see fewer injuries, since players are fresher from not going through all those meaningless drills. The lack of prep time could hurt teams with new coaches or quarterbacks….or it could hurt veteran, system-heavy teams who needed the extra prep time to fully get their routine in place. This is my long-winded way of predicting the Chargers are going to end up being a darkhorse contender since they're kind of halfway between the two camps. The coaching staff is still in place so there isn't a lot of new stuff to learn, but it's also not like Norv Turner's system and strategies are all that complex. San Diego could be that perfect middle ground team to avoid some of these lockout-related issues. And hey, the Chargers are notorious for their slow starts, so perhaps a change in the preseason routine is just what they need to avoid another 1-3 record in September.

The Chargers are the clear favourites in this pretty weak division. Kansas City got into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth last year and since their coaches have an inexplicable disdain for playing Jamaal Charles (maybe the best RB in the league) more than half the time, it's hard to see them holding serve as division champions. Denver gave its coaching staff a much-needed flush but it will take John Fox at least a year to start digging the team out of Josh McDaniels' mess. The Raiders are the Raiders, firing a coach who'd actually started to get them on the right track and Nnamdi Asomugha is gone too. It is a sad time to live in Oakland….well, it's always kind of a sad time to live in Oakland, but now especially.


AFC East: New England, New York*, Buffalo, Miami
As an old-school football coach, my dad pretty much loves everything about how the Patriots do business. As an old-school football coach, my dad hates diva players like Chad Ochocinco. Ergo, Ochocinco playing for the Pats this year is going to be an interesting experience. I predict it'll take until Week Four for my father to start saying things like, "You know, Ochocinco isn't that bad a player. That Belichick sure got his head on straight!" Anyway, the Patriots are fine, they'll likely win the division again. The Jets will lose just enough games to keep them from a division title since they're specifically built to challenge only the Patriots, Steelers, Manning-led Colts, Chargers and Ravens --- against the rank-and-file of the NFL, they struggle. The Bills will go 6-10 with at least three of those losses being complete heartbreakers. And let's talk a moment about the Miami Dolphins, who are going to SUCK this year. Woo boy, this team has 3-13 written all over them. Their new owner, Stephen "New Dan Snyder!" Ross, will have an excuse to bring in the big-name coach he's always wanted, leaving poor Tony Sparano to fall back on his residuals from Reno 911.


AFC South: Houston, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Jacksonville
After all these years of talking about how Peyton Manning is overrated, I'm finally proven right. Big bad Peyton can't play because of a teeny-tiny little….uh, neck injury. Awww, poor widdle Peyton bear, does he need his mommy to kiss it and make the….er, serious neck problem that may require a third surgical procedure…all better? What a wimp! Anyway, Manning's injury does a couple of things. Firstly, Brett Favre's streak of consecutive quarterback starts is now possibly the most unbreakable record in sports. Secondly, the Colts are now terrible. Manning carried this sorry group for years and now Kerry Collins is supposed to do the same? Good luck. Indianapolis' stretch of winning seasons just came to an abrupt halt.

This leaves the division wide-open for….yeah, I can't believe it, the Houston Texans to finally reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Look, I hate picking Houston to do something before they've actually done it, but on paper, they have the fewest flaws of any team in this division. Tennessee has a new coach, old man Hasselbeck at quarterback and Chris Johnson as a walking injury waiting to happen since he held out of training camp and is even further behind in training than everyone else. Jacksonville is still Jacksonville, who inexplicably cut David Garrard the other day despite the fact that Garrard's mediocre self was still their best QB option. It would be classic Texans if they finally get their breakthrough winning season not by their own merit, but because the rest of the AFC South just fell backwards to them. I guess Houston would've had a winning season last year had their secondary even been bad instead of horrifyingly terrible, and since they've done some upgrading to the D, what the hell, maybe they really are better.


AFC North: Pittsburgh, Baltimore*, Cincinnati, Cleveland
The only suspense here is in picking which of the Steelers and Ravens will finish first, and which of the Bengals or Browns will finish third. Neither Ohio team has a hope in hell at at top-two finish. The Steelers are too strong a franchise to get bedevilled by the Super Bowl loser curse and Baltimore still has too many (aging but dangerous) weapons to fall apart completely. Rinse, repeat in the AFC North. On the bright side, Ben Roethlisberger didn't rape anyone this summer. How could he, with Batman in town to watch his every move.


NFC West: St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona
Ughhhh, this division is so lousy. All four teams are so bad that any final order of finish is possible. I'm fairly certain the Rams are the best team of the bunch so they will avoid the basement, but still, a third-place finish is very possible given their collective youth. If Kevin Kolb is actually a good quarterback, then the Cardinals suddenly shoot right back to the top of this division. If Jim Harbaugh is able to get something, for the love of god ANYTHING out of Alex Smith, it might be enough to get the 49ers over the top and into first place. If the Seahawks are somehow able to keep on keepin' on with last year's magic, since I still can't fathom how they actually won a playoff game, then what the hell, they could repeat as "division champs." (If you finish 7-9 but still win your brutal division, your achievement is forever tarred by quotation marks.)

Out of all this shit stew emerges the Rams, who may resemble a good team. Steven Jackson is still a beast. Sam Bradford is not as good as the quarterback-centric media would have to believe, but he's already pretty good and could take another step forward this year. They've added valuable Super Bowl-winning grit in the form of former Packers Al Harris and Brady Poppinga! (Ok, this may not be a major factor.) I'd probably be more down on the Rams if they were in any other division but amongst the blindness that is the NFC West, they're the one-eyed men.


NFC East: Dallas, Philadelphia*, New York, Washington
After years of mocking people for picking the overrated Cowboys to finish atop the NFC East, where I am picking the Cowboys to finish atop the NFC East. The key is this year, they're not the overrated team. That's definitely the Eagles, who will start regretting that six-year, $100 million contract to Michael Vick by around week three. Hell, even the Giants are overrated since a lot of people seem to be picking them for the playoffs despite the fact that half their defense is injured and Eli Manning is secretly a bad QB. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are getting Tony Romo back and once Jason Garrett took over last season, the team just seemed to gel a bit better. Given that the Giants are going to implode and the Redskins are starting Rex goddamn Grossman at quarterback, there's definitely room for Dallas to sneak in there and steal the division.

So, why won't Philadelphia win it? They have the most talent, they're loaded on both sides of the ball and Andy Reid (for all his game-calling faults) is a fine coach. The problem is, in a nutshell, Mike Vick. He's the most overrated player in not only the NFL, but possibly in all of pro sports. People love the idea of Mike Vick, or perhaps more accurately, they love the potential of Mike Vick. They see him have one monster game where he runs for 100 yards and throws for 400 yards and they think my god, here's the most revolutionary quarterback in the sport. The problem is, Vick is only capable of these games two or three times a season. The rest of the time, he's either hurt or tossing up interceptions. If I was Philadelphia, I would've hung onto Kolb for dear life since you can't go into a season with Michael Vick as your quarterback and expect him to play every game. (Getting Vince Young, a poor man's Vick, is not an acceptable Plan B.) Reid should be on the phone with David Garrard's agent right now trying to lock in a better backup QB for when Vick suffers his inevitable injury. The Eagles are going to make the playoffs by sheer dint of talent, but they're not going to make any serious noise with an inconsistent liability at quarterback.


NFC South: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina
A real paper-scissors-rock scenario here. I'm confident that the Panthers will come in last since their offence is still a garbage dump, but as to those other three teams, any predicted finish is possible. Maybe the Bucs will continue their progress and jump up to be champs. Maybe the Saints have recovered from the Super Bowl hangover and are recharged. Maybe the Falcons really have turned a corner as a franchise and will be a consistent contender for years to come. Those six Atlanta/Tampa/New Orleans games on the schedule will all be dogfights, no doubt about it. The Falcons are my choice but I'm not at all confident. As much as we joke about Arthur Blank looking like a 1930's department store owner, those guys had a rough go of it. You had the Depression, crime, and being made to look like fools by everyone from the Three Stooges to W.C. Fields. There's a lot of bad karma attached to the 1930's department store owner look. Blank should watch out.


NFC North: Your Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, Minnesota*, Detroit, Chicago
Detroit Lions, I love ya and I'm more scared of you than any other team in this division, but you're this year's trendy preseason selection that fails to live up to the hype. They're going to make things interesting, no question, but I think 8-8 is their ceiling for 2011. In 2012, I'll start to get really worried, especially if Matt Stafford is actually capable of staying healthy for a full year and, y'know, is actually good. The Bears were arguably the worst and/or luckiest 13-3 team in football history last year and they'll plummet back to earth with a sickening thud. The only question for Chicago this year is how quickly it will take the fans to turn on Jay "Morrissey" Cutler. With these two down, it's up to the Minnesota Vikings to make the surprise turn-around and get back into the playoffs. This team has notable offensive and defensive line issues but hey, there's still some quality talent here. Minnesota is underrated after last year's debacle of a season when literally everything that could've gone wrong did go wrong, including their goddamn stadium collapsing in on itself in a scene that looked vaguely fake to me. (Seriously, look at it again. Doesn't the Metrodome look CGI'ed? Why did FOX have so many cameras set up at all those different angles? Are we sure FOX didn't make a quick deal with the special effects people from 'Doctor Who' to cook up this footage?) Leslie Frazier is a calming influence at head coach and while Donovan McNabb has lost a step, he won't bring the nonstop drama of a certain grizzled, cameraphone-loving Mississippian.

And then…..the champs. Green Bay had a quiet summer in free agency and I kind of wish they'd done a bit more to beef up the offensive line. But overall, this is the same team that whipped the NFL's ass from January onward last winter. If anything, the Packers should be better now that Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley and various other injured stars are back and ready to go. The fact that Green Bay managed to win the Super Bowl without so many key players should make the rest of the NFL cower in fear. Getting these guys back may help stave off any post-Super Bowl complacency, since you know Grant, Finley and company are pissed about missing the party last season. Even if they weren't my favourite team, I'd still be very bullish about the Packers' chances at repeating.


PLAYOFFS
Cowboys over Vikings
Eagles over Rams
Chargers over Ravens
Jets over Texans

Packers over Eagles
Falcons over Cowboys
Patriots over Jets
Chargers over Steelers

Packers over Falcons
Chargers over Patriots

Super Bowl XLVI: Green Bay over San Diego


NFL Offensive Player of the Year: Philip Rivers
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Coach of the Year: Leslie Frazier
NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Amateur Dream Analysis



DREAM: My family and I are on our way to Port Stanley, Ontario (perhaps better known as the happiest place on earth) when our car breaks down on the way. Our car, by the way, isn't any of our usual family vehicles, but rather Herbie the Love Bug. Yeah. Anyway, we pull into the parking lot of a farm/produce market just before stalling out and the kindly vendors and customers all take a look at our car and offer to call for help. Suddenly, everyone's smartphones start beeping with texts and news alerts, and word is spreading that the earth is under invasion from an alien race. We even see a formation of air force jets swoop through the air, no doubt on the way to the nearest largest city. (I'm guessing Toronto….sorry, hometown of London.)

That's when it happens. The sky splits open with some kind of interspacial wormhole as people run, terrified, to take cover. From the wormhole emerges the alien hordes….flamingoes. Yup, flamingoes. Dozens, if not hundreds, of them, just dive-bombing everything in sight. I caught the image of one farmer taking a home run swing with his umbrella and catching one flamingo in the face, instantly killing it. Then I woke up.


ANALYSIS: When and if humanity does experience some kind of extinction-level event in my lifetime, it won't be due to some cataclysmic event like an alien invasion, the Apocalypse, dinosaur rebirth, etc. It will probably be due to somethings stupid --- as in, humanity is doing something dumb to the environment that we don't even know about and it's causing a ruckus that will eventually kill us without warning.

Like, for instance, pissing off flamingoes. They're perfectly laid-back, innocent birds who want nothing more than to just hang around, and yet we not only destroy their wetlands, we also mock them by putting plastic flamingoes in our yards. (Well, not my yard, but white trash yards.) It's preposterous! I don't blame flamingoes for attacking humanity in some kind of coordinated, inter-dimensional attack.

Two theories: one, that flamingoes ARE aliens who just colonized themselves on earth centuries ago and have now called in the reinforcements from their home planet. Or, perhaps more cannily, flamingoes have somehow developed wormhole technology and are simply making it LOOK like an alien invasion in order to surprise humanity. Either strategy is pretty threatening --- lord knows I wouldn't want to fuck with a flamingo that could blast me into the outer regions of time and space.

I'm presuming the farm setting lodged itself in my subconscious since I recently indulged in some high-quality eatin' during a recent visit to my parents' house in London. Fresh meats, fruits, vegetables…and, in particular, some of the sweetest corn on the cob I've had in many a moon. I don't know if the folks picked it up specifically while going to Port Stanley, but my parents were indeed in the Port just last week seeing an Elvis impersonator concert. Uh, yeah.

Re: the smartphones going off. One of the most interesting aspects of social media is how quickly news breaks, details develop and then analysis begins almost instantly. For example, the east coast earthquake from a couple of weeks ago. I was at the computer and got up to make a sandwich. By the time I returned to the computer five minutes later, there were suddenly 70 tweets in my feed. Within five minutes, the progression went from "whoa, was that an earthquake?" and "Did you feel that?!" to confirmation that there was actually a quake hitting the east coast, to almost instant mockery of the weak-ass nature of said earthquake. The famous "stunning photos of devastation" links appeared almost immediately. Between this and my dream, it made me think that if aliens ever do invade, we'll be in for some AMAZING tweets.

As for the Love Bug, well, who didn't like that movie when they were kids? Perhaps my childhood love of Herbie is why today, I prefer to drive compact cars. Maybe I should just buy a Volkswagen with a racing stripe and be done with it. I'll get to buying a Herbie right after I purchase the Ecto-1.